In which I have a poem on Radio 4

I’m on Radio 4!  This is truly thrilling for me!

Something Understood candle

I was very lucky, alongside excellent poet Elisabeth Charis, to be part of a Writing West Midlands-brokered commission to write a poem for Radio 4’s ethical and religious discussion programme Something Understood.

The programme’s theme was ‘Bread’, and it went out on Sunday 23 August, and if you’re so minded you can listen to it for the next 29 days (and counting).  The link is here, and you can hear me reading my poem Bread Generations about 6 minutes in.

Here’s the poem.

Bread Generations

The grandmothers said, it’s an art like fire
They said this
is the very nature
of leaven.

Snare in a white bowl
your kitchen’s tiny alchemy
of airborne spores.
Observe them strengthen
through a pale brown week of bubbles,
then raise like a thin,
elastic ghost,
yeast’s reek.

For unleavened bread
has no past.

The grandmothers said, keep some starter
back in your dish
to be fed like a kitten
and watched
like a fire.

They said, think ahead, provide
for the ones that follow.

Call them in.
Break bread
a bakers’ rising.


With a stuffed crow at Wenlock Poetry Summer School

‘I saw his eye gleam./  I saw a trance fall/  on the park’

My new Crow (for The Crow House, natch) and I spent yesterday with Wenlock Books Poetry Summer SCROW 5chool and 13 enthusiastically cawing children.
I explained to the group the strange tale of the crows that lived in the tall trees, right in the middle of a small town by the sea in southern Scotland, and read out an extract from ‘The Crow House’. The Crow House_Jean Atkin FRONTcover   Then we shared everything we knew about crows, all the goriest bits, and they wrote copious drafts.  I love discussing the drafting of poetry with young children – we talked about line-endings, the verb tense they had chosen to write in, whether the poem would work better in the first person, or would be more freeing for them if written in the second or third person, when you do, and when you don’t, need that adjective… From the drafts, the children made and illustrated concertina books for their poems.It's the crow I pity this night Last Tuesday she met the crow Crow concertina bk Zena

Later we played poetry puzzles – Emily Wilkinson (who’s running the Poetry Summer School for Wenlock Books this week) and I were rapt, eavesdropping on the discussions, as the children pieced together a poem.  What a treat of a day.  My thanks to Wenlock Books and its creator Anna Dreda!

Solving Poetry Puzzles


Five Sites, Five Senses : disability, poetry & landscape

I’m working on a great project with partners Shropshire Hills AONB, the Vision Homes charity in Ludlow, Loudwater Studio and all-round dynamo and now good friend, Julia Walling from Woods for Wellbeing.  We’re taking people with severe disabilities, with their carers, out into the nearby countryside in the Shropshire Hills. It’s called Five Sites, Five Senses to reflect the nature of the places we’ve been out to visit, and bearing in mind the various and differing capacities of the service users.

In this way, for example, at Carding Mill Valley, I went with a blind man and his carer up a steep short path and over a plank bridge to reach a bird hide.  His carer walked backwards over the plank bridge, holding his hands to guide him safely across.  Once we got into the bird hide, it struck me that of course we were not going to look.  We listened.

5 Sites 5 Senses Loudwater poem bird hide CROPWe’ve made visits now to three of the Five Sites: Carding Mill Valley, Gleanings Rural Study Centre and Brynmawr Care Farm.  Our big scrapbook record is taking shape.  It includes photographs of participants, artwork by both service users and carers, my poetry drawn from conversation and observation, and artwork by Julia Walling.Book Carding Mill 5 CROP

Book Gleanings 2 Book Carding Mill 3 Book Brynmawr 2

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